What does it take for the ACT Government to have vision for developments in and around my own suburb of Dickson? I’ll get back to the question.
On Thursday the planning authority (ACTPLA) announced that it had approved the latest version of the application for the new supermarket complex. Sadly from the information made available, it seems that there has been a bit of tinkering but the reality is that not much has changed (the image above is what we saw in March this year).
Residents had forecasted such a decision. It was well known that there was no way that the developers, having failed badly the first time around in May 2015, could politically be sent back to start all over again. That first design was a monster. Locals saw it as being inappropriate for the site.
The newly approved building complex (being two supermarkets, shops, and an apartment tower) is the beginning of overdue changes to the Dickson group centre. Unfortunately, if this one goes ahead in its present form, the developers and the ACTPLA will use it as the benchmark for other developments.
The current spokesperson for ACTPLA ensured that there was a press release ahead of the announcement so that he could spin out some of the reasons for his decision. He concentrated on justifying things by coming up with the very tired lines such as – there is such a wide range of views and aspirations – What we’ve tried to do is find the very best balanced outcome for the community.
OMG – not those words again – how many times in one’s lifetime should anyone hear such spin from a planning bureaucrat?
Will we ever see that day when the government would be able to say: The government has worked successfully and openly with the developers and the residents and is proud to announce an architectural and environmental solution that will set an enviable high design standard for all the other new developments in this very popular suburban area.
They definitely could not say that about the convoluted and obscure processes by which this whole thing has come about.
To make matters worse for the future, they have even dared to base part of their decision on a various dubious logic – see image below – text from ACTPLA’s approval notice.
That is, the approval for this building for which we have no image, is apparently not dissimilar to other approvals in the area which are yet to be built and therefore we have no idea what they are talking about. How about that for beautiful planning logic?
Meanwhile we had also been told that the trees in the Dickson parklands are now not to be sacrificed for the temporary parking. That’s a good result.
However this decision itself presents another piece of wonderful planning logic.
The whole plan was based on converting the main carpark as the site for the new supermarkets. For this to happen the LDA had to find some temporary parking to at least compensate a little for the huge loss of convenience. Mysteriously, the government has now announced there is in fact enough parking in and around Dickson even with the loss of the enormous space next to Woolworths.
I suggest that shoppers may have a different view on this – especially during peak times.
I would be surprised if Woolworths or the owners of that building agree with this most recent planning approval. For at least two years this supermarket will not have any parking outside its front door. Why? That site is now to be used for the construction of a building for two of its direct competitors.
Surely they will challenge this decision or maybe even close up and move on as they did in Manuka about a decade ago when something similar happened.
But surely there can be something positive here.
We need our shopping centre to survive the coming onslaught of construction, noise and lack of amenity.
We would hope that the government could work with the locals to ensure that the other parts of the shopping precinct remain attractive to shoppers, to families and to those who love socialise over cups of coffee and a snack.
For that we need an open discussion with the planning minister. But so far he continues to avoid contact with the local residents. He has refused to come to a meeting of the residents. This is a shame.
Maybe the local member, Andrew Barr, who lives in Dickson, could find the time to speak to residents about how the government could ensure the viability of the centre over the next years of construction.
This is an election year. We need a vision, not spin. Talk to us.
FYI: The Dickson Residents are inviting the community to join us on Thursday 21 July at Daramalan. If you are coming – then send questions for the night to firstname.lastname@example.org